In the last two decades, amid the global spread of smartphones, state killings of civilians have increasingly been captured on the cameras of both bystanders and police. Screen Shots studies this phenomenon from the vantage point of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Here, cameras have proliferated as political tools in the hands of a broad range of actors and institutions, including Palestinian activists, Israeli soldiers, Jewish settlers, and human rights workers. All trained their lens on Israeli state violence, propelled by a shared dream: that advances in digital photography—closer, sharper, faster—would advance their respective political agendas. Most would be let down.
Drawing on ethnographic work, Rebecca L. Stein chronicles Palestinian video-activists seeking justice, Israeli soldiers laboring to perfect the military’s image, and Zionist conspiracy theorists accusing Palestinians of “playing dead.” Writing against techno-optimism, Stein investigates what camera dreams and disillusionment across these political divides reveal about the Israeli and Palestinian colonial present, and the shifting terms of power and struggle in the smartphone age.
Rebecca Stein is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Duke University.
Imani Cheers is Associate Professor of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University.